As I’ve written before, when I began planning my own wedding (a 150 guest destination bash in New Orleans) I had no experience in the industry, nor had I attended many weddings. With some research and the help of my sisters, fiancé, and friends we pulled off a five-day celebration that will go down in the history books on both sides of our families. We were super proud of the party we threw, but along the way we made some mistakes. I want to share them with you so you don’t repeat them.
When planning our rehearsal dinner, we knew we didn’t have the budget to do something seated at a restaurant, especially because we intended to invite 6o guests (crazy- we know).
By searching for restaurants that were BYOB friendly (another savvy way to keep costs down) we found a BBQ restaurant on Magazine street (McClure’s RIP - Neil can now be found NOLA Brewery). This quirky venue was great for us because beyond BYO, a BBQ format allowed us to buy a ton of delicious food for cheap, satisfied the “Southern fare” expectations of our guests and was a nice contrast to the fancy meal we would be providing wedding day. The venue had seating for about 40 inside, if everyone is crammed. It was obvious we would need additional seating outside so I asked the owner if he had any tables he could set up for us on the side of the restaurant. He said “sure”, I said “great”, and checked rehearsal dinner off of my list.
When we arrived at the rehearsal dinner, the staff at McClure’s had been working hard setting up our bar, placing décor, creating a delicious looking buffet and interacting with our guests. Everything was absolutely perfect… inside. When I went to the side of the building all I saw was one plastic 6 foot table set up, no table cloth, no chairs. For the rest of the evening, while I tried to enjoy myself, I couldn’t help but obsess about some of our older family members trying to awkwardly eat a BBQ dinner while holding their plate and balancing a drink all at once. Their discomfort was distracting to me.
This was not McClure’s fault at all. When I asked if he had a table to set up outside, he answered that he did, not realizing that I needed seating for 20 guests. I should have been very clear about what I needed, which I wasn’t, because I honestly wasn't thinking about it. I learned that anytime you are serving food to your guests you need to consider how the food needs to be eaten. Cocktail-style receptions are popular in New Orleans and don’t require a seat for every guest as the food is typically snack-friendly. BBQ on the other hand, where you often have two hands covered in sauce, does require a specified place to eat. Additionally, knowing that your venue is too small for your guests and thinking they will squeeze in is fine in theory, but when you’re there it’s difficult to ignore three people trying to sit on a seat meant for one. Overall, I think everyone enjoyed themselves and were grateful for the food and drinks we served, but looking back I always wish I had done the simple and easy thing of having chairs and tables delivered. It would have made the space seem bigger, would have made my guests more comfortable and in the end would have enhanced my own experience.